Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Marc Craste presentation

A nice little video of a presentation by one of my favorite animation directors. His thoughts on design and simplicity around the 7 minute mark pretty much capture my own ideas on the subject.

Thanks to Frank Ladner for pointing this out to me....

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Michael Sporn has a nice interview of the creators of a new indy short film, Pups of Liberty. It's a great read for those of you interested in how indy shorts usually get made (one word: slowly. heh). I had a chance to work with one of the creators of the film (Bert Klein) for a short while when I was working on Disney's Mickey Mouse Christmas show. Bert's a real gentleman and super talented. One of the nicest people you'll meet, very positive and encouraging. I'm glad to see this project coming from he and his wife. It looks pretty neat. Here's a trailer.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Economics of Abundance

Watch it a few times if it doesn't make sense at first. It's not an idealistic outlook, merely a realistic one. It's actually pretty optimistic, but realistically so. Which is a good thing because we don't live in a world washed with unicorn tears.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thanks, shows, and head colds

First up- thanks to all those who have commented, tweeted, emailed, called or sent notes tied to rocks through my windows about my impending move to Valve. You guys make me blush as you're all too kind. Some folks have asked, so I'll restate it here: the VTS monthly video tutorials will continue. The Animation Personal Trainer (APT) courses will go on extended hiatus for the forseeable future. The APT requires a good deal more time and effort than the VTS, and since I'll be "at work" all day I don't think I'll have the time to properly devote to it. However, as in all things related to my life, I reserve the right to change my mind should conditions prove favorable to a future APT session. So... who knows?  heh.

As for the Otto & Schmitty project? It's still on. It's on like Donkey Kong, brutha. I'm about a third of the way through animation/rendering episode 1, titled "Date Night". It's about Otto's never ending quest for love. I'd be further along on it except I've had a nasty cold the last week. I doubt it's a piggy flu, but it has been gnarly enough to make it hard to sit at the 'puter and get anything done. All the cold meds made it hard to think and stay at it. I have no idea how other creative folk can work under the influence of pharmaceutical "enhancements". heh.
Anyhow, I'm about a week behind schedule. But the show must go on- and shall. Look for the first episode of the Otto & Schmitty Show sometime in early December.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"I solve practical problems..."

Why am I posting this, besides the fact that it's really well done and funny? Well, because I've accepted an offer to be an animator at Valve Software in Bellevue, WA, creators of the above linked Team Fortress 2 and Half Life game properties (among others). I'm quite excited about the opportunity because even though the position is titled 'animator' it's really more of an animator/TD/CG generalist/creator type deal. I'll have opportunity to spread my interests across a broad spectrum of roles and tasks- something that I find really intriguing. As much as I understand the whole "focus only on animation" mantra that's preached among animators these days, I honestly get bored doing just one thing for months and years on end. I like a challenge and I love learning new things. As such the switch to the interactive side of media is a whole new deal for me- which is exciting. I'll have a chance to work with and learn from the best- the roster of artists, animators, designers, technicians and programmers at Valve is beyond impressive. It's gonna be cool to see where it all goes and I'm thankful to have the chance to play along.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

NHS short film promo

I liked this. Has a neat UPA vibe to it, but it's not hiding the fact that it's CG, either.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sunny's toon-shading breakdown

Former APT student Sunny Kharbanda (featured here and here on this blog) has a new post up on his blog. This time he goes pretty in-depth into how he developed a different kind of toony shading (but not a specific toon shader, per se) for this recent cartoon inspired animation work in Maya. I love his thought process. Definitely take some time to check it out, and then (if you're interested) see how you can expand upon the idea with your won twist.

Ward Jenkins' step-by-step

The talented and friendly Ward Jenkins of the Ward-O-Matic blog  has posted a wonderful in-depth look into how he does his illustration work. It's a great little read. I enjoyed it and even learned a thing or two.

(follow Ward's Twitter here if you like)

Mayerson on pitching TV shows (via David Levy book review)

Mark Mayerson has walked the road, so I value very much his imput on the folloy of pitching an animated TV show to the animation networks these days. His review of David Levy's book on the topic is a good read- as is David's book. They come at the same topic from two sides. Levy takes a more optimistic view of the process. Mayerson, not so much. I have been involved in the pitch process a time or two and I found it bemusingly messed up. I had good talks with the development execs, and they didn't reject my idea but invited me to press on with the development. I never seriously pursued it because early on I could tell the system was rigged to maximize my pain and minimize my remuneration. No thanks.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

D3D podcast interview of me

And old friend of mine, Henk Dawson (he himself is a very fine illustrator who works in CG) has a new feature on his site- a podcast! He's had some interesting interviews already. Notable guests would be Bryan Ballinger (he of Ballinger fame) and Tina Price (she of the Creative Talent Network and Disney notoriety). You should check them out. And then after you've had your fill of erudite and insightful conversations, have a listen to Henk's latest podcast where he interviews yours truly. Hey, somebody's gotta inhabit the low end of the bell curve, and that exactly why I'm here. Anyhow, if you're into podcasts, interviews or listening to the dulcet sound of my voice (described by some as a cross between a howling cat and a jackhammer), then have a listen.

Big thanks to Henk for letting me play along. :)

Cacure San Valentine -- short film

A fun little short by Luis Angel Villalobos. I love the texture and hand made paper look of this. The timing of the animation to the music is neatly handled. The characters have simple expressions, but they read. This is another great example of finding the right match between visual style, motion and story.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

"Yellow Cake" by Nick Cross

Saw this over on the Cartoon Brew, but I liked it so much I wanted to re-post it here. The background paintings in this are absolutely fantastic. They're just great. The story is a little dark, but it rings true. Overall it's a great and satisfying effort by a lone filmmaker.


Saturday, October 03, 2009

And coffee...

Yeah, I know it's dumb to rip off the Obama Hope poster. That's sooooo 2008. But I still like it. It's an interesting study in iconography. Simplify a character down to their base elements. One image, one word that captures who they are.


The world looks with hope to the one thing that can save the morning...

Thursday, October 01, 2009

This is a perfect example of "stupid"

A bunch of college students has been told they can't gather together as a Disney fan group to watch Disney films- of which (as noted) they are big fans. Why? Because allegedly any showing of a DVD (bought at a store with money that went back to Disney, mind you) to a "large" group of people is copyright infringement. To show to a "large" group of people you need to secure a "display license", which is not what you get when you "buy" a DVD. What number of people in a gathering is the tipping point? 10? 20? 50? If you have 49 it's OK, but that 50th person gets you nasty letters from the legal department of a giant multinational conglomerate receiving tax dollars as subsidies? What if that 50th person sits in the hallway? The sheer stupidity of this is mind boggling. It's intellectually bankrupt and it's business suicide.

This is why the old models of the entertainment business are dying and will die. Like a slow lingering illness that eats away from the inside it may take a while, but it's a done deal. The death rattle can be heard down the hall. The only way to keep the old business model alive in a world where people can get content pretty much for free is to punish your fans. And those fans are your customers. I wonder how many thousands of dollars in Disney merchandise those college kids have bought collectively? How many trips to a Disney theme park have they taken- or planned to take? No, they may not be paying the proper license fee to watch a DVD as a group, but they're Disney fans. Logically who else would gather as a group to watch? So this action by Disney has no intended target other than the very people they should be catering to. Instead they're bullying them. There's no doubt Disney has made tons of cash from these kids over the years. This, my friends, is terrible customer service. As a businessman there's one thing I learned and it's this: the very air of life for your business is your customer service. You can even have an inferior product or product at a lower price point and still thrive if you have amazing customer service. Old media systems must rely on lawsuits, coercion, threats and cease & desist orders in order to survive. Not a one of those methods gives the fan (who in one way or another is a paying customer) the warm fuzzies about your company or its products.

There's an old, old law in the Bible. It's not followed in today's society at all, but there's a principle of fairness behind it. It's the law of gleanings. Basically God said to the people : Don't go back over your fields a second or third time to gather every last bit of grain that you may have missed or dropped. Leave it for the poor, the hungry, the downtrodden. Don't be a greedy jerk and squeeze people for pennies. Be gracious and generous and things will go well for you.

Disney's squeezing people for pennies after they've already milked them for countless hundreds or thousands. My prediction: things will not go well for them.